Responses to the age of Trump

Among the few predictable outcomes from Donald Trump’s election this week has been the unbearable nature of social media. From the racist and outrageous memes I’ve seen certain Trump supporters post to the dismissive and angry posts from Clinton voters, it’s been tough to tread a middle ground. My own election hot-take tried to be a bit measured — this is not the outcome I wanted, but it’s the one we have and we must work together to move the country forward, whether we agree or not. 

The post in my newsfeed that has me thinking the most came from a former coworker. She decried all of those like me who want to move forward, claiming that anyone who could accept the Trump election was suffering from white privilege. This attitude represents the cancer at the center of both parties. It’s inarguable that centuries of systematic discrimination have given white people significant advantages in America. And it’s imperative we remedy that and create equal opportunity. But just as it would be unfair to dismiss a vote for Hillary Clinton as being rooted in a blind desire to see a woman president would be wrong, arguing all people who voted for Trump did so because of the luxury of their skin color reinforces exactly why so many did.

The sneering response to Trump’s victory
Since Barack Obama came into office, the Democrats have lost their majority in the House of Representatives, their majority in the Senate, 1,000 state legislative seats, a net 11 governorships, and now the presidency. There’s an ugly group of Trump supporters (that I have spoken against many times) who backed him out of sick desires for white supremacy. But there’s clearly a huge constituency of Americans who simply don’t agree with the Democratic vision for the country. Yet, Democrats remained so convinced of the unassailable supremacy of their viewpoints that instead of offering some level of introspection, they must dismiss any support for a GOP candidate as belonging to racists, bigots, and the uneducated. It’s the same kind of moral superiority that pushed many away from the right during the 2000’s — and if the Democrats don’t start thinking with a little humility, it will keep them in the wilderness for a long time.

Stop blaming the Electoral College
Another favorite refrain amongst scorned liberals is that we’re finally at the moment where the Electoral College ought to be disbanded. “Hillary won the popular vote!” they cry. This is true, but she won it not by building a coalition: she expanded her margins in states like California and Massachusetts. 50% of America resides in 23 populous counties. 15% live in the nation’s 10 largest cities. Direct election of the President is not a way to ensure democracy — it’s a way to guarantee that a narrow set of urban interests can force their views on the rest of the country. That the map “favors” Republicans is not a critique of the electoral system: it’s an indication that maybe the Democrats ought to adjust their policy mix to be appealing beyond a relatively small set of states.

Turns out FiveThirtyEight was right
I watched the last set of Sunday shows prior to Tuesday’s vote. CNN had a few pollsters on, including Harry Enten from FiveThirtyEight. In the weeks leading up to the election, their models gave Trump about a 1/3 chance of winning the presidency — and they were excoriated by many in the media who claimed they vastly underrated Clinton and that Nate Silver was being risk-averse to avoid an embarrassment. FiveThirtyEight was right not only to be more bullish on Trump, but their consistent reasoning ended up being accurate. Clinton’s support was distributed much differently than Obama’s, and left her far weaker in key swing states. 

May God bless President Trump
There was a meme going around earlier this week that observed: “wanting Trump to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash a plane — when you’re on it.” David French, fellow #NeverTump’er, wrote a short column that sums up how many of us feel. I’m not optimistic about Trump, and I’ve opposed him since day one. But, now we have to hope that he successfully lands the plane, whether he should have been flying it in the first place. Which is why we ought to do everything we can to treat him like any president, and oppose the policies we disagree with, but help move forward the ones where we do agree. 

The end of American primacy
While this was written just prior to the election, it is even more relevant in light of the result. You can debate when it started, but it’s clear that America’s preeminent role in the world has begun to wane, and that the trend accelerated under the Obama administration (for reasons both within and outside of their control). The world needs American leadership more than ever, and Trump’s election represents a scary moment where we might embrace some of the more dangerous tendencies to withdraw from the global stage. Younger people are more accepting of globalization: we’re natives to an increasingly borderless world. No leader will be able to reverse this trend, and America withdrawing only ensures someone else will drive the key decisions that affect us. 

What’s next for #NeverTrump
The most principled opposition to Trump was not on the left, but rather, on the right. “Winning an election doesn’t render Trump virtuous or wise, nor is the fact that most Never Trump pundits thought he was likely to lose relevant to our assessment of the man’s character, temperament, or political positions. Winning almost 60 million American votes doesn’t make him right about NATO or trade. It doesn’t mean that dishonesty, deception, and fraud are suddenly acceptable traits in an American president. And it doesn’t make the alt-right any less evil.” NeverTrump’ers ought to support Trump as our president, but also stick ever more strongly to the principles that led us to oppose him in the first place.